War and Misperception

Jervis, Robert

War is most likely if you overestimate others' hostility but underestimate their capabilities. War can occur without misperception, but rarely. Misperception is inaccurate inferences, miscalculations of consequences, and misjudgments about how others will react to one's policies, and may include military optimism, pessimism about long-term diplomatic and military prospects, incorrectly anticipated consequences. Scholars (Jervis included) generally focus on misperceptions of intentions, not situations. On average, states are more likely to overestimate others' hostility, inferring threatening motives from actions that a disinterested observer would consider at least partially cooperative, and underestimate the extent to which their own actions can be seen as threats. When others do feel threatened and react, the first state views these moves as confirmation of aggression.


Also Published In

The Journal of Interdisciplinary History

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Academic Units
Political Science
Published Here
March 5, 2015